We find ourselves wrapped in the sweet molasses of nostalgia, with the high stakes of Death feeling close enough to graze your arm. This landscape will kill you, if you’re not careful. It’s easy to get distracted by our soundtrack with Pat Benetar, Tyler the Creator, Harry Styles, and Machine Gun Kelly– but just as you’re head bopping along, that’s when Matt Mitchell hits you.
“I see a streak of bird bloating with afternoon wind/ and call it gone before it ever wells/ into the teeth of a windshield.”
from “I Never Kept a Dollar Past Sunset”
Isn’t this dope? I say to my roommate as my fingers graze over the cover of this collection. Made to look like a vinyl, the Neon Hollywood Cowboy fails not to be a soundtrack fit for queering what we know as the cowboy, the body, the wild west as depicted in hollywood.
When I think cowboy I think gritted teeth, hand on the gun in your holster. I think fighting for your life. The Neon Hollywood Cowboy does the work of giving us a luminous experience of what is falling apart. The body as weapon, the body as rust.
“There are five vital organs in the average human / body there are six in mine, if you count the tepid faucet of slow-glow lantern light queering / through my bellybutton”
from “Ars Poetica”
In “Etymology of Rust”, one of my favorites of this collection, ths speaker moves us through a new definition of “red oxide of iron”. We begin with the image of a real chemical reaction of fading or dissipation of some kind. The speaker brings the “rust” of their body into play. As a reader, you can smell the hospital air from itching the jelly around scars to make it stop to autonomy of a belly sour with convenience store nectarines to rubber cities in rubber states in rubber countries outside hospital windows to insulin syringes / caught in subcutaneous fat. These images of rubber, jelly, syringes– all things that feel fake and manufactured, met with the fading reality of rust, creates a heart-wrenching duality that encompasses the collection. almost as if everything real is fading, and everything fake has an ever presence in the world of the poem.
“i have abandoned myself / all over the world, / but tonight, i will find a home / for the flowers between/ my chipped teeth”
from “My Body, As a George Michael Music Video”
Cowboys are not just macho guys with guns, in fact, nothing is more rugged than the queer intersex neon cowboy that is our speaker. The dichotomy the reader experiences is unmatched. While we experience the reality of a fragile body, this collection also brings a summer sky full of fireflies worth of light.
“My grandmother’s moth was a firefly jar, and sunlight crawled / through the cracks of her smile”
From “Earl Sweatshirt Asks Me If I Will Shovel Broken Bones Into My Mouth After My Grandmother Says The Cardinal On Her TV Set Is Her Dead Husband”
Matt Mitchell’s the Neon Hollywood Cowboy builds us a new cowboy: adding sparkles to the wild west dust, rainbows to the spurs, and the kind of bravery earned from a lifetime full of standoffs with mortality. I tell you what, if I run into this cowboy in the desert, I’ll equally want to run for my life, and buy them a drink.